June 10, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.”
The fallout of the first sin is great division. That is what you heard this morning from the Lord’s mouth. Speaking after the man and woman ate the Forbidden Fruit, the Lord addresses the serpent. The woman had spoken of its culpability: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the Lord renders judgment against it: “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Enmity. The word means a condition of hostility and hatred. The woman and the serpent are now enemies. There is a feud between them. She had been deceived and sinned; now she suffers the punishment that her iniquity brings. And all the days of her life, she will remember and hate that serpent for it. But the hatred not only exists between the two individuals, it extends throughout the generations. It is a feud much deeper than that between the Hatfields and McCoys. The woman’s descendants carry a legacy of her being deceived and led into sin. They also are deceived and sin. It brings remembrance of what the serpent had done to their mother. So her offspring and the serpent’s offspring both stand as antagonists against each other.
It is that way for you. You have descended from the woman. You carry the legacy of deception and sin with you. What happened in the ancient days has effects now. The serpent’s question is posed to you: “Did God really say…?” The deception leads to doubt. The doubt leads to sin. You do not keep the Lord’s Law. Your sin leads to death. And that is the serpent’s desire for you. He is not an ally, but an enemy. The state of division between you that began in Eden is found here, confirming the Lord’s words: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring….”
But the Lord’s statement about the enmity included a promise of a particular Child of the woman: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” There is hope for those who had been deceived. The dishonorable act that brought down your matriarch would be rectified. An act of retribution would take place. The serpent’s head, the mouth full of lies and deceit, will be crushed, never to open again. The Lord’s promise declares that the One who brings that retribution will be of your clan, one of your fellow descendants. The sons of Adam and daughters of Eve will be vindicated by one of their own.
So when that Promised One appears, what does He do? The Gospel Writer records His acts. He comes bringing forgiveness of sins, absolving the paralytic and making him walk. He comes bringing healing, restoring the man’s withered hand. He comes casting out demons, causing them to bow at His feet and silencing them.
But such actions are hurtful to those aligned with the serpent. The serpent’s offspring hate it. They see the end of their domination. So they attempt to deceive, to cause doubt in what the Promised One does. This is what you heard from the mouths of those present in Jesus’ hometown after He had begun His work of bringing retribution against the serpent. They attempt to explain His acts: “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘by the prince of demons He casts out the demons.’” Their explanation is actually deceit. Those who would believe them will be led away from the One whom the Lord sent to bring deliverance and redemption.
But this time, the lies and deception are not met with doubting by the woman’s Descendant. He does not travel the same path that leads to sin. No, Jesus opens His mouth and answers the deceiving and blasphemous words: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.” The reasoning of the scribes is exposed as unbelievable and false. Jesus’ answer reveals the deception, so that others will not follow.
Then Jesus does something more. He discloses His purpose for being in the world. He speaks of His mission: “But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.” Jesus provides an image of what He has been doing. The serpent was strong, able to deceive the woman and her offspring. But now the serpent is being bound. The Promised One has appeared, the One who would “bruise [the serpent’s] head.” Jesus had begun that work by casting out the demons. He is taking the strength of the strong man away. By doing so, Jesus takes away his ill-gotten gains.
With Jesus’ presence, the enmity between the woman and the serpent, between the woman’s offspring and the serpent’s offspring comes to a head. It reaches its conclusion. The hostility ends. But it does not end by a declaration of truce. Nor does it end by the woman’s children surrendering. No, it ends much differently. Jesus’ acts bind the serpent’s strength. The truth that Jesus speaks answers the serpent’s power of deception. Jesus’ casting out demons breaks the serpent’s power of possession. Jesus’ raising people to life reverses the serpent’s power of death. Then Jesus brings the feud to and end by crushing the serpent. The beam of the cross lands squarely on the serpent’s head. The Risen Jesus treads on the serpent’s brow.
This is what Jesus has done for you, the children of Eve. The promise made to you long ago has been fulfilled. His work is done to bring retribution for your mother. But He has also done it for your benefit. Jesus’ binding of the strong man has brought freedom for you. His crushing of the serpent’s head has brought victory for you. The collect’s words summarize Jesus’ work: “Almighty and eternal God, Your Son Jesus triumphed over the prince of demons and freed us from bondage to sin.” So now you have a different knowledge and understanding in your life. You know how to consider the serpent: as an archenemy, but one who has been conquered no matter how much he attempts to look otherwise.
This understanding reveals the point of Paul’s words that spell out the results of Jesus’ work to the Corinthians: “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence.” The resurrection that Jesus experienced is meant to be yours. You are not lost to death, destined to be eternal victims of the serpent. No, you are fated for much greater: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Jesus, the Promised Descendant of Eve, has come as foretold. He has come, making His dwelling place among us, for the purpose of dying and rising again. Satan has not risen up against himself, but has been conquered by Jesus work. The serpent has been crushed for you. The promised retribution has come. Your sins have been forgiven. The presence of the Lord has become something not to be feared and hidden from, but something to be anticipated and awaited. You have been taken from the house of the strong man to being members of the household of God, those who do His will. You have been moved from the curse of death to the promise of everlasting life. Jesus has done all this for you, the offspring of woman. He has done it just as the Lord said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.